The mainstream narrative surrounding high school relationships is usually to break up when both of the individuals go to college. It is hard enough transitioning from being a child to a young adult without outside pressure to break up with the person who has been your support system. This is especially hard for gay couples because often times, as was the case with me, our partner is the only person who fully understands what we are going through as a queer person in society.
I met my girlfriend when we were fifteen, we started dating when we were sixteen, and we are now twenty-four and going strong. Both of our parents accepted our relationship, but they would constantly tell us that we needed to “find ourselves” in college. Sometimes I think what they meant by that was to try to date men in college, or see if we aren’t really as gay as we think we are. What our parents couldn’t understand was that we were the only out lesbian couple in our grade out of over a thousand kids. I was the only person that could truly empathize with my girlfriend and vice versa. The stares in the hallway or the pressure to define or label ourselves from our peers was exhausting, and we found comfort in each other. I truly believe when you find the right person you just know it, and age is not a restraint on a person’s ability or capacity to find “the one”. However, a seven-year relationship from sixteen to mid-twenties comes with a unique set of struggles yet creates a unique bond within the couple. Here are some tips on how to sustain high school to college to adulthood queer relationship:
1. Do not let outside opinions cloud your own judgement. If this person makes you happy and you have a healthy relationship, you must stay true to what is best for you. Do not let parents try to tell you that you are too immature to know what you want.
2. Understand the importance of individuality. My girlfriend and I both attended the University of Illinois, but we never took a class together. We took time to live apart, and we made sure to spend time with our friends.
3. Allow your partner to express themselves. Change can be scary, and as people age they change and that can be uncomfortable. My girlfriend went through various phases in her late teens to early twenties, as did I. We went through partying phases, she got tattoos, I drastically changed my hair, and she even changed her sexuality identification from gay to bi to pan. We never stifled each other; we always encouraged the changes and stayed true to our core values. If you love somebody you must love all aspects of them, and not just their original form when you met them, because that is rarely permanent.
4. Find LGBTQ friendly spaces. In high school, we were too afraid to partake in the gay-straight alliance club or other outside organizations. However, in college, we joined various LGBTQ oriented clubs and began frequenting gay bars, and it changed our relationship for the better. It started to mature as we became more comfortable in our own skin, and that’s largely accredited to being in spaces where we could gain that confidence and meet other gay couples who could give us advice.
5. Mistakes can be forgiven. The formative years of a teenager to a young adult is concentrated with impulse, self-discovery, and confusion. It is okay if your partner is not fully confident in their sexuality and retreats more than you, it is okay if your partner gets angry, and it is okay to take breaks from each other. Forgiving your partner for their mishaps will propel the relationship forward. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean you are content with what the other person did. It means you will work together to fix any problems in your relationship. This is of course within reason, only forgive within your comfortability, but know that my girlfriend and I made countless mistakes and always communicated and worked on them together.
Nobody except for the two people in the relationship truly understand the feelings and bond between each person. It is true that most high school relationships don’t last, but just because the odds are against you doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. I can tell you it is amazing to have somebody who knows all of you and who can say to you remember in high school when… or remember in college when…, it’s a very deep connection.
The LGBTQ movement has always been about trusting our hearts and not caring what anybody else says, so stay true to those roots.
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